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Starlin Castro, Theo Epstein, and Jose Reyes

By Mike Silva ~ October 10th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest, Sabermetrics.

We recently saw Ozzie Guillen traded to the Marlins for two prospects. Lou Piniella was dealt to Tampa Bay for Randy Winn back in 2003. Would the Cubs trade their star shortstop Starlin Castro for Theo Epstein? I think the answer is yes, and it involves the Mets Jose Reyes.

The question of a Castro-Epstein deal was brought up by Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune. Before you laugh at the idea of trading a player for a general manager, remember that Paul DePodesta was asking for Kevin Youkilis from Billy Beane when the two were trying to figure out compensation for Beane’s dismissal from his Oakland contract to take over Boston in 2002. If Beane was worth a top prospect, what would Epstein and his Boston resume be worth? Probably a big league regular.

Better question is would Epstein be ok with Castro as his booty? As much as he made a name for himself by leading the National League in hits, Castro’s game has tons of warts on it. He doesn’t walk (35 times in 715 plate appearances) and his attitude is less than stellar. Chicago manager Mike Quade took him to task late in the season for behavior that isn’t acceptable at the tee-ball level, much less the big leagues. Cameras showed Castro not paying attention and reaching into his pocket for sunflower seeds during pitches. As the pitcher went into his motion and delivered the pitch, Castro kicked at the dirt and then walked toward the outfield, never looking toward home plate when the pitch was thrown. Maybe that concentration is why he’s made 56 errors in two seasons.

Castro is young and talented, but Epstein is the kind of GM that could bring a sustainable winning environment to Wrigley Field. Since Jose Reyes is a free agent, the smart move would be for Epstein to accept a deal of Castro for his services, and then make an all-out play for Jose Reyes. The Cubs are only a couple of years removed from being a contender. There is talent on this team and Reyes leading off and playing shortstop might give them the kind of energy they have been missing.

Obviously, this is pure speculation. We have no idea whether a Starlin Castro-Theo Epstein deal has even been considered. What I do knows is that Epstein is not going to be let out of his Boston contract for nothing, that is unless John Henry and company are so enthralled with his assistant Ben Cherington they are willing to let Theo leave without a fight.

I still believe the market for Jose Reyes might be softer than we expect. I believe there will be tons of 5-year deals available for him, but not many north of $100 million. The Yankees are already out. The Phillies told Andy Martino of the Daily News they have no plans on pursuing Reyes to replace Jimmy Rollins. With pitching at a premium, you might see a team like Washington invest their resources at a run for C.J. Wilson or CC Sabathia. Don’t forget Yu Darvish could be posted as well.

Mets fans love Reyes probably more than the industry. Mets beat reporter John Delcos wrote last week that “Reyes has always been more about potential than production.” I don’t agree with that statement 100%, but he has left you wanting for more, knowing what his tremendous talent can produce. How many players have been compared to Rickey Henderson during their career and actually give you reason to believe they can match that hype? Reyes might be the only one in my lifetime. We just haven’t seen it enough.

The early exit for the batting race was no big deal in the Mets clubhouse. It does seem to be a bigger deal throughout the industry. Reyes has a label of being fragile and not a team player. Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant; it’s a perception that is reality. Those are terrible labels to have heading into free agency. Can it hurt him? I think so, but all it takes is one GM to forget everything and throw that 7 year/$142 million dollar deal at him. If Starlin Castro is dealt to Boston for Theo Epstein can’t you see Epstein possibly being that guy?


Isn’t Reyes such a perfect fit for what the Yankees need? He plays a premium position and has the skill sets to manufacture runs, a trait that is largely lost on the “home run happy” Bombers. It won’t happen as Brian Cashman threw cold water on the idea earlier this year. Two things to remember; first, when the Yankees feel “wronged” as an organization- and make no mistake about it they don’t respect the Tigers enough to believe their ALDS loss was just- they go out and spend like crazy. Two, what if Cashman isn’t back. Unlikely, but he still has no contract for 2012. Would a new GM feel the same way about Reyes?

Yankees beat reporter for the Journal News, Chad Jennings, discussed the Yankees upcoming offseason with me on last night’s show. We threw out an idea of declining Nick Swisher‘s option, moving Derek Jeter to right field, and the Yankees signing Reyes to play shortstop. Clearly, this is just Chad and I playing GM, but is that idea all that wild? I don’t know if Jeter would play right field. I highly doubt he would ever give up his shortstop position for anyone, even Reyes, who is clearly the better player.

A fun thought and something that would make the Yankees a better team.

If you want to hear more from Jennings, download the replay of my show and fast forward to the 20 minute mark.


By the way… how much worse would Jeter be in right field than Nick “skates” Swisher?


I talked a lot during my Moneyball review how the concept is a great tool for individuals to incorporate to their decision making. I made the point that Moneyball is a tool, not an ideology or philosophy.

One of my gripes with the sabermetric community is the certainty they possess with their decision making. Since they have formulas and numbers they feel their thought process is infallible, as long as it meets whatever mathematical criteria they set up to achieve. Never mind the numbers they input could be garbage, or the theory faulty when you add in factors like 25 different personalities, contracts, clubhouse politics, agendas, fans, etc.

Enter Mitchel Lichtman aka MGL, a onetime consulting statistical analyst for the St. Louis Cardinals. Litchtman is no longer employed by the team, and he outlined his disappointment how Tony LaRussa and company didn’t embrace his ideas to Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago.

He spent Friday night bashing LaRussa over at Tom Tango’s “Inside The Book” website for how he managed Game 5 of the NLDS. A game he would win 1-0 over the Phillies. You know I am all about the process, but there is certainly no absolute way to run a baseball game. Very few moves are “no-brainers” and often it’s hard to judge from home because we have incomplete facts. How does the player feel? How does said player react to pressure situations? Don’t forget dugout conversations. That’s why for anyone to use stats and ideology to make a statement with certainty reeks of immature arrogance. Lets breakdown a few of MGL’s doozy

Many of you know how much I hate TLR’s in-game managing.  I think he is atrocious and today he did not disappoint.  I said before the game started to my son and someone I know in the Cards front office that Tony would do something dumb just to show how “smart” he is.  It didn’t take long.  Even before the game, he inserted Nick Punto into the lineup in place of John Jay. Now Punto is probably the better defender than Schumaker at second, but Punto has no bat whatsoever.  My sim estimated that that cost the Cards around 1.5% in WE.

For the layman, WE is Win Expectancy. It’s the probability of an individual contributing to a win. According to Baseball-Reference, Win Expectancy gives all the credit to the batter and all of the blame to the pitcher. These stats do not assign credit or blame to the fielders or the base runners, even though they surely deserve some of the credit or blame. Clearly, a flawed stat. Maybe MGL’s formula addresses this, but even if it does, this stat means absolutely nothing to me. I don’t reference it, nor believe it gives me anything more than “fun with numbers” on a slow day. Let’s say I have more faith that Tony LaRussa, the manager with 12 pennants and 2 World Series championships, knows his players better than MGL’s computer.

Also, what the hell does a 1.5% WE mean in terms of a real game? Do we honestly believe we can measure that? There are so many factors that are outside what we can measure that I can’t believe a manager could go to a player with a straight face and say “you have a low WE; go sit down.”

Top of the 8th, Carpenter gets a hit (should have been pinch hit for anyway, but I won’t even get into that).  Furcal bunts which is crazy because Carpenter does not run.  He is one of those pitchers who thinks that all he has to do is pitch.  On almost any bunt other than a great one, he is going to get thrown out at second.  A decent bunt and only because of an error, everyone is safe.

Not a bad complaint about the bunt, but again, the Cards had the bases loaded and 1 out and it was a strikeout of Berkman that was the big play. If Berkman hits a sacrifice fly than the strategy by LaRussa doesn’t look nearly as bad.

The real quibble is the one about pinch hitting for Carpenter, and that leads into a discussion of Jason Motte, the closer, versus Chris Carpenter, the starter, in the ninth inning. This is where MGL’s arrogance rears its head again. I would like to see MGL pull Carpenter while he is pitching the game of his life for a closer that didn’t even hold his job earlier in the year. Remember, the same Cardinals bullpen he is railing about LaRussa ignoring blew a 4-run ninth inning lead to the Mets two weeks ago. That game nearly derailed their season and could have made this conversation nonexistent. Its not like pinch hitting would have led to a 5-run inning and blow the game open against Halladay. You can’t play that way against one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

There is also the human element that MGL’s computer fails to comprehend. Carpenter was pitching against his good buddy Roy Halladay. He wanted this game. You could tell he wanted this game, and no one was about to beat him. Even if Chase Utley‘s fly ball left the yard to tie it in the ninth, the move by LaRussa was the correct one. Outside of Mariano Rivera, what closer do you have faith in that was a better option that Carpenter?

Carpenter the fourth time around the order on this night clearly was better than anyone in that bullpen. None of us know the conversation between LaRussa, Duncan, and Carpenter; but I am sure they saw and know things that MGL’s computer can’t comprehend in any algorithm.

MGL is a very smart man when it comes to numbers. His work in sabermetrics clearly has advanced how we look at the game and provides some tools that help in decision making. He was hired by a big league club so he can’t be dismissed. However, Cardinals’ fans should thank their lucky stars he isn’t a decision maker because that computer would run that organization right into the ground. I don’t think he has a future as a big league manager either.

It’s clear that MGL needs some people skills to understand that leading 25 men to a pennant is more than win probability, pitching matchups, and lineup utilization. A manager needs to gain the team’s trust, he needs to communicate, and he needs to manage the 25 diverse personalities in that locker room. None of that is done by using any of MGL’s tools. I wonder if MGL’s WE calculates Punto turning a double play, or Carpenter’s bulldog mentality in this ballgame. Does it know the fear Jason Motte may have closing out the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park? Of course not, but Tony LaRussa’s computer, his brain, has all that information.

I am not saying MGL’s formulas are useless; I am criticizing his lack of practical analysis when it comes to combining his mathematical genius with a real world situation in front of him. MGL presents just as flawed argument as those that use the “eye test.” MGL and the old school scout are brothers from a different mother, so to speak.

I reference this article on Saturday, but it’s worth noting again. Joe Posananski spent a day during spring Training of 2009 watching LaRussa up close. He learned from that session why he gets more out of his players than any other manager in baseball.

Take this blurb from the piece:

On top of that, he has always seemed to me just a bit too certain of his genius. La Russa, you probably know, hangs out in the “We’re pretty damned smart” rat pack coaches club — La Russa, Bob Knight, Bill Parcells and various guest stars — and they all are pretty damned smart, but, hey, nobody in sports is THAT smart. I remember being around once when La Russa explained why he hits the pitcher eighth, and I understood his reasoning, but he just sounded so certain that he was right and, basically, every other manager who ever lived was wrong. There’s a line somewhere between confidence and arrogance, and another line between arrogance and self-delusion, and, for me, La Russa seemed to cross all those lines all the time. As a fan he drove me nuts.

Posnanski also bows at the altar of advanced stats, but since he is a beat reporter that spends time in the locker room, he does understand there is more to the game than algorithms. He admits to having a different perspective on LaRussa after spending time with him.

Replace “Tony LaRussa” with any sabermetrician in that piece and you can see why I have issues with the community. They provide a great service, but do such a bad job incorporating it with the real world. They are terrible salespeople as well. If they had to make their living selling their wares I would suspect they would starve. Their arrogance and certainty is wrongful and immature. If they toned down that act perhaps they would be taken more seriously. Perhaps MGL would still be employed by the Cardinals. He would at least given himself a better shot.

Remember, I said “follow the money trail,” a few years ago. Want to know why MGL hates LaRussa? It’s because he is no longer collecting those greenbacks from the Red Birds.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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10 Responses to Starlin Castro, Theo Epstein, and Jose Reyes

  1. vtmet

    quote: Mets fans love Reyes probably more than the industry. Mets beat reporter John Delcos wrote last week that “Reyes has always been more about potential than production.” I don’t agree with that statement 100%, but he has left you wanting for more, knowing what his tremendous talent can produce.

    While I can understand the disappointment with time lost to injuries, and may even consider the lack of walks at periods a slight weakness for a leadoff hitter…take a good look at his career “162 game averages” and compare them versus other leadoff hitting shortstops…

    How many shortstops have a 162 game average over almost 5000 plate appearance, that really compare to Reyes:
    302 Total Bases;
    113 Runs;
    201 hits;
    34 doubles;
    15 triples;
    12 HRs;
    65 RBI;
    57 Steals;
    51 walks;
    .292 avg; .341 OBP; .441 slug %; .782 OPS; 106 OPS+;
    Has never struck out more than 82 times in a season;
    Possesses one of the most powerful shortstop arms in the game;
    May not possess the greatest defensive rankings, but is one of the most graceful shortstops at turning a Double Play under pressure, and makes putouts deep in the hole on his backhand side that most shortstops either couldn’t get to or don’t have the arm strength/accuracy to get the ball to 1st base in time to nail the runners.

    I think a lot of critics sell Reyes a little bit short because of whatever agenda the media sells us…If Reyes had the same career numbers as a Yankee, a Philly or a Brave; people would have had a totally different perspective of Reyes’ value…

  2. vtmet

    One other thing that Reyes does better than just about any shortstop as well, that doesn’t show up in the statistics…I don’t think that any player, let alone shortstop, puts as much pressure on a defense/pitcher as Reyes does to force errors/mistakes…

  3. Chuck

    Isn’t Mitchell Lichtman the guy who invented UZR?

    And what does UZR rhyme with?

    And this guy is an EX-Cardinals employee?

    Sounds like a disgruntled ex employee.

    I feel sorry for Lichtman’s kid.

  4. Joseph DelGrippo

    “He was hired by a big league club so he can’t be dismissed.” Ironic choice of words because he actually was dismissed by a big league club. I read the entire MGL piece plus a few of his others (first time reader) and the know it all arrogance on this guy is unbelievable. He speaks about LaRussa like the bitter former employee he once was. I guess MGL’s work with the Cardinals can not be analyzed since it was a “small sample size.”

  5. Tony

    Haha, the Cubs are not going to trade their league minimum 19 year old All-Star SS and sign an $18 million, late 20′s, oft-injured albeit when healthy premier SS.

    Cubs need upgrades all over the field and still have multiple bad contracts on their books (The list starts at Soriano and Zambrano). They cannot afford to trade their youngest, cheapest and possibly best player away, who happens to play a premium position, for a GM. No doubt Starlin has his flaws, although those that have followed him over the last 2 years knows he’s a good kid who works hard to improve his game, mental gaffes aside. He’s not a player you look to trade under any circumstances when you are in the position the Cubs are in.

    Bottom line is Starlin + Rick Hahn >> Theo and no Starlin, no matter how much I would love to have Theo as a Cubs fan.

  6. Frank Russo

    I totaly agree with Joe DelGrippo here. I wonder if Mr. Lichtman has heard what Larry Bowa said about UZR on the MLB Network. It was pretty darn funny. Also, from what I remember, according to UZR, Russell Branyon is a better first baseman than Tex. That pretty much says it all for me. Love him or hate him, I’ll take the word of Tony LaRussa, a hall of fame manager, any day of the week over Mr. Lichtman’s. To quote Sam Elliot from the movie Road House….”That Dog Won’t Hunt.”

  7. Brien Jackson

    MGL is just an asshole. Don’t conflate him with every sabermetrically inclined writer or analyst. In fact, I imagine if you polled them, most would probably have agreed with leaving Carpenter in the way he was pitching.

  8. Paul

    Since you had no qualms about slandering a 21 year old, I have no problem telling you what a stupid suggestion this was even before it came out that MLB wouldn’t allow any big leaguers to be sent back and forth as compensation in this deal.

    Castro’s game has a ton of warts? He’s 21! By the time he should have been just becoming a big league regular, he’ll be playing his fourth or fifth full season.

    He doesn’t walk? He can when he wants to.

    This is what people don’t understand about this kid, or about any player they don’t watch every day. You can look at his walk numbers and indeed they’re paltry. But here’s what I saw last year from Starlin Castro, watching him every day - he had defined himself last year primarily by his being a hitter - he wanted .300 again and he stated openly that he wanted 200 hits. So he didn’t walk much. But I’ll tell you something interesting that you can see if you look at his game logs - he had a 10 game stretch late in the year where he walked pretty much every game, and some games walked multiple times. Included in this was a walk in his last home at-bat needing 1 hit to get 200. He took 2 pitches up 3-0 in that at-bat and took his base.

    Castro is in complete control at the plate. He can be a .400 OBP guy if he wants. He can walk if he wants. That’s what that stretch told me. He can also hit homers if he wants. He had another such stretch with homers. After 200+ games and like six homers total, in a week+ he hit that same amount.

    He can do whatever he wants at the plate.

    He does have legitimate problems defensively, but they’re fixable. His glove is fine, he has a good arm, he has great range. He just needs to learn to concentrate and set his feet on the throws, and he needs to learn that there are some plays he can’t make.

    The comment about him of yours that really is out of line, though, rather than being merely incorrect, is that he has a bad attitude. How dare you say that about a kid who no one who watches the team every day, or who is with the team every day, or who plays against him, would ever say that about him. You’re probably a “sports world” moron who just remembers the one big story when your fellow “sports world” morons ESPN had Bobby Valentine attack Castro for a full inning over his wandering attention on defense.

    Castro has a great attitude. He’s supremely coachable and well-liked by his teammates. He’s a team player.

    Screw you. Do better research next time, unless your goal is to be another clown like Rosenbloom.

    We’ll keep Starlin and take Theo too. Thanks.

  9. Chuck

    Wow, Paul, tell us how you really feel…

  10. Mike Silva


    First, you are correct, I don’t watch Castro play everyday, but the stats tell me he doesn’t walk a lot and historically that is a problem since pitchers will eventually catch up to him. Remember someone named Jeff Francoeur? I do, and I learned my lesson with him. He started out with a bang, and didn’t walk… who cares, right? Today, he is a league average OF who is a backup on a good team.

    As for the Castro-Theo deal, that was Rosenbloom, not me. Don’t lecture me on a report that I was commenting on that came from the CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

    Players get traded for managers, why not execs? Randy Winn got traded for Lou Piniella. He wasn’t Castro-hyped, but he was a decent player.

    If Castro can “do whatever he wants” lets see him get a .400 OBP. It will do him good. Something tells me your analysis is more fanboy talk than logical and independent analysis like I provide at this site.

    I don’t see Castro everyday, but other than your guy feeling that says “he can do whatever he wants” you have provided me no proof that is indeed the case.

    My research is fine, is yours? Mine is based on data, what is yours? Give me facts from your eye test (I am not all about the numbers, ask anyone who comes here frequently), and maybe we can talk.

    You sir, sound like a Cubs fan clown. The type of guy that chased Steve Bartman into obscurity.

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